Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Pastor's Wife (Revelation 2:20)

Any serious reader of the book of Revelation knows that Codex Alexandrinus (Codex A, early 5th century AD) is considered the most reliable of the ancient manuscripts for the Greek text of John's Revelation. Without some basic Hebrew and Greek, many important points will be missed in exegesis and interpretation of the Bible. One reading in Codex A for Revelation 2:20 is that instead "you allow the woman, Jezebel to teach..." we have the reading, "You allow your woman (wife), Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants..." The Greek word, "sou" (your) is found in Codex A and other manuscripts (esp. important is 046) but usually Bible translators chose not to follow the reading of Codex A in this instance for they think (wrongly) angels could not have wives. But if angels of Rev 2-3 are human messengers, then the preferred reading of Codex A should not be dismissed so easily.
One interpretive crux is the identity of the angels of the seven churches. Are they celestial (heavenly) or earthly messengers? A little knowledge of Greek will tell us that the word "angel", angelos simply means "messenger" and only the context will tell us whether the angel is heavenly or earthly. For instance, in the Septuagint, (LXX) Haggai the prophet is called the angelos (messenger) of the Lord of hosts (1:13). Likewise, the angelos of Exodus 23,20 and Mal 3,1 is now fulfilled by John the Baptist, a human messenger and a prophet. Hence, we see in these two instances, the Lord's prophets are also called the Lord's angels (messengers). It is not surprising that some interpreters have argued that the angels in Rev 2-3 are prophets, the messengers (angeloi) of the Lord in the 7 churches. This is buttressed by the fact that John sees himself primarily as a prophet (Rev 10:11), perhaps a leading prophet together with his fellow prophets in the province of Asia Minor. It is not unlike the prophets Elisha and Samuel who have with them companies or schools of prophets.

John communicated with his fellow prophets by sending letters to each of the 7 churches and these messengers (angels) of the 7 churches are meant to convey what John through his revelatory experience and visions wrote down in his letters or this book of prophecy called Revelation. If the reading of Codex A is correct for Rev 2:20, the angel of the church in Thyatira is rebuked for allowing his wife to teach and seduce members of the church to commit sexual immorality and eat foods offered to idols. Thus, the chief problem in the church in Thyatira is that the angel or pastor of the church allows his wife to go beyond what is prescribed by the Lord's apostles and prophets. John, in the tradition of the apostles in general and in particular, the tradition of Paul who founded several churches mentioned in Rev 2-3, not least the church in Ephesus (Acts 19) would have known Paul's teachings on women (1 Cor 11:3-15; 14:33-37; 1 Tim 2:11-15). What the pastor of Thyatira is doing is clearly against what Paul taught, "I do not allow a woman to teach or have authority over men...", hence, the Lord's rebuke, "I have this against you (singular referring to the angel) that you allow (2nd person singular present active indicative) your wife, Jezebel..." (Rev 2:20, Codex A)

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